I recall the night she was born. She entered this world kicking and screaming, her voice incredibly powerful for such a small baby, and I knew then that her voice would serve her well when she grew older. Yet her birth brought about the death of my wife, making it a very bittersweet night, but she looked so much like her mother and grew to have so many of the same characteristics as her mother that at times, looking upon her made me think that I was seeing my wife once again, just as I had known her during our school days together.
Being a single father definitely was not easy, especially being estranged from my family, living on the other side of the country from my wife's family due to my job. While I had known that my wife would likely die during childbirth and I had steeled myself to that fact, the responsibilities of a single father with a newborn was overwhelming. If not for the extremely generous assistance of a well-trusted neighbor across the street, I definitely would not have been able to be the father my sweet princess deserved.
As my princess grew and started to be able to do things for herself, the stress on me gradually lessened. Yet it was very clear that she was bonding with me, that she trusted me and loved me and could not bear to be around me. We were almost as close as Siamese twins, clearly joined at the heart. She was my world, and I lived for her, to give her what she needed and as much as possible of what she wanted without spoiling her.
The day she went to kindergarten for the first time was a bittersweet day. Although she had already spent most of her days at day care followed by a few hours with the neighbor, kindergarten represented a milestone. Somehow, it felt like my offspring was leaving the nest, going out to make her way in the world. I stood upon the front porch, watching as she carefully stepped onto the school bus with a few other kids from the neighborhood, tears leaking from my eyes as the bus made its way toward the school and she waved at me through the window, her smile evident, her enthusiasm for kindergarten undeniable.
The teachers recognized what I had known from the moment she was born: She had an incredible voice, loud and melodic. She was not shy about singing, and soaked up anything music-related like a sponge soaking up a puddle of water. At home in the evenings, if she was not singing, I knew she was either asleep or doing something naughty, and when I was at work, I truly missed her voice.
As she progressed through her schooling, she proved that she was as studious as she was talented in singing. She could not obtain enough knowledge, able to grasp concepts quickly and then help other students to understand the lessons. In many classes, homework was practically trivial for her.
Yet through it all, she so wanted to be around me. She wanted to please me. She wanted to ensure that I was happy. As long as she sang, I was happy. As long as I knew that I could return from work and hear her beautiful voice once again, I was happy. As long as I had her in my life, I was very happy.
When puberty befell her, I was at work. Her first period had come during a math class, and while the embarrassment of the location and the timing had nearly mortified her, she proclaimed that night during dinner that she was proud to reach this milestone, because "it means that now I'm a woman!" I could only smile and nod my head, wishing that her mother could have been there in person for this moment, yet sensing that her mother was indeed watching from above.
Through the school choir, my daughter shared the gift of song with others. Very quickly, she became the lead, always at the center of the front row, almost always receiving the female solo parts. Yet none of it went to her head. Never did she feel that she was "better" than anyone else. That was when I knew that I had raised her properly.
She did date a few times during high school, but never seriously. That saddened me a little, but I was also happy about that, for while I knew that she would eventually leave the nest, I wanted to hold on to her for as long as I possibly could. I wanted to be able to hear her songs for the rest of my life -- the videotapes of her choir performances simply did not do proper justice to her angelic voice.
Her high school graduation was a significant milestone as well. As she stood in cap and gown, diploma in hand, she beamed, she radiated pure joy. I could barely hold the camera still to capture that moment. And when we returned home with her still in her graduation regalia, the hug we shared was long and heartwarming, neither of us wanting to let the other go, and when I realized that this meant college was just around the corner, I began to cry upon her, to which she responded by kissing away my tears.
The long drive home from her distant campus was a very difficult one for me, for I knew that for the first time of my life, I would return to an empty home. Rather, an empty house, for my daughter's voice had made it feel like a true home for more than eighteen years. As I stood in the doorway to her bedroom that night, I relived her entire life in a mere heartbeat, and vowed that her bedroom would always be ready for her, always filled with her fairies and her favorite teddy bear and her framed diploma and her baby blue motif.
As I stand here now, in the doorway to her bedroom, I am filled with anticipation. Only two months have passed since I last saw her, since I was last able to hug her close, but it feels like two lifetimes have passed since Christmas Break.
I can barely wait to leave work at Noon today, to make that four-hour drive to her college, pick her up, and bring my daughter home for Spring Break. For one week, her voice will turn this house into a home, and her presence will cause my heart to overflow with love.